The last place team has the best closer.
The Junichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball are in last place in the Central League and have the lowest winning percentage of the 12 teams in both leagues. Through 26 days, they’re 16-28 in 44 games, with a winning percentage of 3.66. Three other teams – Yakult Swallows, Rakuten Eagles, and Junichi – have won less than three games.
After finishing fifth in 2021, Junichi replaced Tsuyoshi Yoda with “Legend” Kazuyoshi Tatsunami at the helm. They dropped to last place under the new coach. After going 4-6 last year, the team is even worse this year. They have the same solid mound as last season, but a weak batting lineup has kept them in the bottom half of the standings.
Ironically, the tailgate of the weakest team is guarded by its best closer. Cuban right-hander Raidel Martinez, 27, is the man.
He pitched against the Yokohama BayStars at the Nagoya Dome in Anbang on June 26. Entering as the fourth pitcher in the top of the ninth inning, Martinez struck out the opposing cleanup trio to preserve the 1-0 victory. Yokohama is the Central League’s top team in team batting average (2-for-6).
He retired leadoff hitter Toshiro Miyazaki on a swinging strikeout and got Shugo Maki to ground into a fielder’s choice. He then struck out #5 Neftali Soto on a wild pitch to end the game.
The ninth pitch he threw in the first inning against Soto touched 95 miles per hour. His 12th shutout of the season on 10 pitches.
eve of the season on 10 pitches. Takaya Ishikawa’s one-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning was the game-winner and Junichi’s only run.
Junichi has continued his dominant pitching this year. In 16 appearances, he has a 1-0 record with 12 saves and a 0.00 ERA. In his 15th inning, he gave up two runs, both unearned. He walked one and struck out 23.
With his near-perfect performance, the opposition summoned Hitoki Iwase, Junichi’s “legendary” closer. Martinez has been called the greatest closer of all time. No stranger to Korean baseball fans, Iwase holds the Nippon Professional Baseball record for saves with 407.
He leads the Central League in saves and is second in both leagues in that category. Naoya Masuda of the Pacific League’s Chiba Lotte Marines leads the Pacific League with 13 saves and a 1.08 ERA. Chiba Lotte leads the Pacific League. If Junichi were playing well, she would have even more saves.메이저놀이터
Junichi joined Nippon Professional Baseball in 2018 and is in his sixth year. Each year, he has improved. He had 21 saves in 2020, 23 saves in 2021, and 39 saves (0.97 ERA) last year. He won the league’s saves title for the first time last season.
Martinez is a member of the Cuban team for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC). He was unfazed when his Junichi teammate, Yariel Rodriguez, decided to defect to the United States after the tournament instead of returning to the team.
Martinez has a career record of 103 saves (9-15, 28 wins, 28 losses, 2.04 ERA) heading into the game against Yokohama on June 26.